Sunday, December 3, 2006

The Lord Has Need of It

First Sunday in Advent
Sunday, December 3, 2006
Luke 19:28-40

First of all, today we begin the new Church Year, so Happy New Year! But it might seem odd that the Gospel reading for today is the Palm Sunday account. What does that have to do with the new Church Year, and for that matter, Advent and our preparations for Christmas?

This question can be answered by the words Jesus tells His disciples they might need to use when they would commandeer the colt: “The Lord has need of it.” This phrase describes many things Jesus used in His ministry of coming to this earth to save the world from sin.

As we see here in today’s Gospel reading, the familiar event of Palm Sunday saw Jesus making use of a donkey. It certainly seems quirky that the Lord of all creation would use such a peculiar creature as a donkey for His premier work of salvation for mankind. And yet, here we have Him, the Savior of the world, having need of an animal most of us would probably just as soon not want to be around.

But when the Lord has need of something it’s not because He needs anything. It’s because He wants to use very ordinary things in life to bring to us rather extraordinary blessings. It all started out with a manger. No, actually it started with an ordinary teenager. A girl none of us would have known about had the angel Gabriel not informed her that her womb would be the home of the Savior of the world for nine months. Does it surprise you that God Almighty would enter a womb as a nascent human life just like the rest of us?

And then there was the manger, of course. Which sounds so nostalgic until we remember that Mary and Joseph used what was available, namely, a feeding trough for filthy stinking animals. But here was Jesus, laying in the manger, already as a baby very much humble in order to bring to us the rescue we need from our sin. The Lord had need of that manger, even if it meant being in that dirty stable.

There were many other things Jesus used in His Ministry of reaching out to souls, proclaiming the Gospel to them, healing their infirmities. On some occasions He used bread and fish to feed people, but especially to show us that He uses things like that to provide for us. Sometimes He had need of mud to heal someone. But not because He couldn’t heal the person without the mud. But because He likes to use these ordinary physical things to show us that His eternal blessings are never so out of this world that they are eternally removed from us. When He gives us something it’s actual. It’s real.

And would you ever expect the eternal God to have need of an instrument of unspeakable torture for the dregs of society? The Romans knew how to punish wrongdoers. Being crucified was enough to make even the most hardened of criminals to second-guess their life of crime. But Jesus had need of a cross. He didn’t use it on those who deserve it. The worst terrorists in the world. The most vile molesters. He made use of that cross by hanging on it in their place. And in the place of every vile sinner. He alone really knew how He had need of it. He chose to hang on that cross in the place of every sinner; every person who has walked the face of the earth.

There’s a whole lot more there to Jesus telling His disciples that He has need of a donkey. What He desires more than anything is to have need of—make use of—the very sinners He died for. If you wonder what your place is in the Kingdom of God, hear the words spoken of the disciples to the ones questioning them about the donkey: “The Lord has need of it.” Dear friends in Christ, the Lord has need of you.

No, He doesn’t really need you. He’s God, after all. He doesn’t need anything. He loves you though. He wants you to enjoy eternal glory with Him. He wants to bless you and keep you in His care as you face daily decisions and challenges. He has need of you because He wants to use you for the glorious work of furthering the Kingdom of God.

Have you ever been in a parking lot and a person asked you if you could jump their car? Yeah, non-Christians would chalk that up to just people helping people. And there’s something to that. But it’s also great to know that God uses us for simple things like that to help out people in need. There are many many ways, of course, that we could help people out in similar ways.

But the important thing is to remember there’s nothing beyond the scope of God’s eternal power and glory. If He could use a donkey, He can use you. If He’s not above sleeping in a manger and being humiliated on a cross, He’s got no hesitancy about using you in big but often very unspectacular ways to serve others. We don’t have to just help them out when they’re in need. We can also tell them about the Lord who has need of them. In other words, the God who loves them and sent His Son for them.

Don’t worry, though. It’s not all on your shoulders. Jesus getting into Jerusalem so He could die on the cross wasn’t really up to the donkey. He was guided all the way; from the very first act of being loosed from his post, to being led to Jesus, to being ridden by Jesus Himself into Jerusalem. Jesus simply used this humble animal for His glorious and gracious purposes.

We aren’t expected to “have it all together”. God doesn’t place the tasks He has for us on our shoulders and then say: “Have at it!” No, He has need of many things along the way to help us, strengthen us, and give us the fortitude we need to follow Him and serve Him as He has called us to do.

Think of all the ways God makes use of ordinary things to do this for you. Simple words, on a page, spoken. Always at your disposal is His Holy Word, the Bible. Trapped in your own thoughts of negativity and complaining and doubt? The Word of God is the antidote, giving you the Words of God Himself, Words that aren’t just encouraging, but life-giving and life-sustaining.

And what about water? We wouldn’t survive without it. God has blessed us with water to live. And so that we may live forever with Him He has washed us with the water of our Baptism, which has forgiven us of our sins and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Likewise with bread. We couldn’t live without eating either. In His Holy Supper our Lord uses the basic food of life, bread, and a common drink, wine, to bring us food that nourishes our soul—His Body and Blood. So there you have it! He even has need of Himself, delivering to your mouth His very Body and Blood to forgive you your sins and strengthen your faith.

We’re all pretty familiar with each other here in our congregation. So familiar that we’re especially familiar with each other’s foibles and eccentricities. We might wonder if our congregation is all it’s meant to be. Shouldn’t we be stronger than we are? Why do we seem so lacking in some ways? It’s because we don’t just have foibles but are actual sinners. It might seem there’s not much here to work with. And yet, the Lord has need of it. This congregation. Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. With all its foibles, shortcomings, and weaknesses. We are part of the Body of Christ. And He uses us as an outpost here in this part of San Diego to be a bright light of the Gospel to this community. Remember, He used a donkey. He can certainly use us!

And that’s because He so loves using all those little things like words, and water, and bread and wine in order to lift you up, set you up high, and give you a future that is in need of Him even as it is sustained in Him. Everything in your life you can do like the disciples did and remember that the things you use you use because your Lord and Savior has placed them there for you to use. He has need of it. If you just sit there, the very stones will cry out. He would use even those. If He would do that, how much more of a blessing do you see you have in your Lord and Savior using you. And if you think the cries of praise that went out on Palm Sunday were something to behold, just wait till you see what is in store in heaven! Amen.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! This donkey needed to hear your message.

rev.will said...

Hi Arfies:

You're welcome, just as this donkey needed to write it. I'm glad it was a blessing to you. God's Peace be with you.

Paul Willweber